When the gloomy cold weather months hit, they hit hard. Your first reaction? To beeline it to the Bahamas for a winter vacation. Immediately. Or any other place where you can sip on some skinny margs and show off that bikini bod you've worked so hard to maintain over the past few months.
But as great as these exotic getaways are, we'd like to propose an alternative to the go-to winter escape: Embrace the season's chilly temps. Donning a heavy, clunky coat and taking advantage of the arctic chill can lead to a slew of health and mood benefits. (Plus, they can be just as fun!)
Done right, this year's real winter vacation will have you wishing it was snowy year-round.
You'll Burn More Calories
If you take your exercise outside, you'll not only get some much-needed fresh air, but you'll actually torch more calories than you would indoors. Although working out in freezing temps may take some getting used to, making the switch fast-tracks your calorie killing. Colder weather activates our body's brown fat which burns more cals in a shorter period of time, according to a study in the journal Diabetes. Some even say that just being in the cold may kickstart your body's burn, no exercise needed.
The go-to winter getaway: Head out west to Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, CO for miles of backwoods cross country and snowshoeing trails, the chance to try your hand at biking atop fluffy powder, or snowga classes that leave you stretched and sweaty.
You'll Reap the Benefits of Vitamin D
Typically, colder weather brings grey skies and a lot more time spent within the four walls of an office building or house. But when you head to a destination made for the colder months, you're far more likely to spend time outside enjoying the sunshine—and geting your daily dose of D, which is important for keeping your bones strong and maintaining a reliable immune system. (To keep that healthy feeling when you return to the real world, try these 10 Tweaks That Will Overhaul Your Health This Winter.) Just remember to put sunscreen on (even in the freezing cold)—you can burn in as little as 10 minutes if you're unprotected, especially at higher altitudes.
The go-to winter getaway: In addition to the countless amounts of winter sports it offers, the The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, WY offers you a way to revel in the sunshine without having to exert yourself too much (since you already took advantage of the gym, we know). In addition to ice skating, snowmobiling, and ice fishing, the ranch has two different spots for sledding and tubing on property—while both are meticulously maintained, one sets up beginners for a taste of the action while the other steeper hill attracts the more adventurous thrill-seekers.
You'll Reconnect With Friends and Build New Relationships
When you head out for a cold-weather vacay, it's not just your immediate travel buddies you'll be spending more time with along the way. Researchers from Newcastle University in the UK found that in particularly unbearable frosty weather, the length of phone conversations increased, making participants feel like they had strengthened their social relationships. In a remote area with no cell phone service? Harness that social energy into developing relationships with some of the other people staying at your hotel or on your trip. (Did you know friends can help bump up your workout intensity too? Here, 10 Reasons to Break Up with Your Boring Workout and Bring Your Friends.)
The go-to winter getaway: While the Ritz Carlton in Lake Tahoe, CA presents itself as a fantastic option for skiing, you can also make a few new friends in daily fitness and spin classes. Not a social exerciser? The festive and communal Slopeside Backyward Bar and BBQ is the perfect place to strike up a converstion with a friendly stranger.
You'll Learn a New (Snow) Sport
Outdoor adventure doesn't stop when the snow falls. If anything, it gets better. Layer up with your favorite cold weather gear and head outside to get sweaty in the winter wonderland around you—downhill and cross country skiing and snowboarding are the obvious choices, but don't forget about the likes of snowshoeing, ice skating, and fat biking.
The go-to winter getaway: For some of the best skiing out West with a serious dash of luxury, look no further than the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Park City, UT (there's a reason the Winter Olympics happened here, guys). If you're an East Coast loyalist, don't fret—the Stoweflake Resort & Spa in Stowe, VT offers quaint New England mountain luxury just steps away from the slopes where you can snowshoe under the stars or get your Balto on with some dog sledding practice. Don't be fooled by the cold weather, though—hydration is still key. Use thse 4 Tips to Dodge Dehydration This Winter to stay safe.
You Can Actually Enjoy a Fire IRL
In a world of central AC and heat, we rarely get the opportunity to hear the crackle of a fresh fire or enjoy the wafting scent of embers. The truth is, though, there's nothing better than warming up by a handmade flame while you're cozied up in a blanket sipping hot apple cider (or one of these 20 Low-Calorie Holiday Cocktail Recipes). After a long day, you might even doze off. The best part? All the heat without any need for sunscreen.
The go-to winter getaway: Inns of Aurora in the Finger Lakes, NY hosts wellness fireside chats for their guests—speak with experts on ways to improve your health or just relax and feel reinvigorated by the fire's warmth and the calming presence of the nearby lake. If you'd rather just hang out, you can also mingle casually over board games and hot chocolate or just grab a book and read for a while.
You'll Reconnect with Nature
Between work, family, exercise, and chores, it can be very easy to forget about the nature around us; but, if you spend time in the cold, you're more likely to recognize what surrounds you. When it's chilly out, humidity levels plummet, the air gets crisp, and a unique stillness takes over. As a result, the cold actually feels stimulating. As we work harder to stay warm (thank you, brown fat!) our body produces more endorphins as a result. When you're out in the quiet and naturally operating from a happier, perhaps more light-hearted state, you can tap into the power of nature to improve your focus and your outlook, according to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology.
The go-to winter getaway: The Viceroy Hotel in Snowmass, CO gives two different ways to really relax and appreciate nature. For the zen mountain traveler, you can enjoy a ski-in/ski-out spa treatment, specially designed to take place in 30 minutes or less just steps away from the slopes with gorgeous views. If you're the more adventurous type, sign up for their uphill vertical climb, an advanced winter hike on Snowmass mountain led by a fitness expert. (Keep it up all year: 7 Ways to Take Your Om Outside.)
You'll Eat Both Heartily and Healthily
Yes, wintertime is often synonymous with unbuttoning of the pants after a robust meal and a major skew towards carb-heavy plates of comfort food. However, that doesn't have to be the case. Many winter destinations now pride themselves on taking advantage of winter ingredients and crafting delicious meals that feel decadent but don't bust your waistband.
The go-to winter getaway: The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, MT offers a weekly Chef's Tasting Menu that features locally sourced and organic ingredients to play up the season's flavors but also keeps you feeling good about what you're eating. Plus, you have the option to enjoy a wine pairing with the menu, really heightening those cozy, indulgent wintertime vibes. (Use that #inspo to keep it healthy back at home with The 20 Best Winter Salads to Warm (and Fill) You Up.)